35 Butterfly Tattoo Ideas to Inspire Your Next Ink

A forearm with a minimalistic butterfly tattoo

@bangbangnyc/Design by Cristina Cianci

Butterfly tattoos are a popular design choice, and for good reason. Regarded as beautiful, delicate parts of nature the butterfly looks great paired with the body's natural form, no matter the placement. Plus, butterfly designs are easily personalized, allowing you to create a truly unique piece of ink. If you’d rather play up their intrinsic meanings instead, butterflies are known for symbolizing everything from freedom and transformation to beauty and “femininity.”

Whatever your reason for wanting a butterfly tattoo, the most important part is to be sure of what you want it to look like. If you’re still searching for that perfect something, here are 35 butterfly tattoo ideas that will help you design your next piece of ink.

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Knee Butterfly Tattoo

The shape of the butterfly’s wings looks great around circular bones, like the knee. Keep the design otherwise simple to play up the shape.

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Minimal Butterfly Tattoo

Butterflies are great design ideas because they can be stylized in a number of ways. If you prefer a minimal tattoo, stick to a few lines—maybe even just one—in your design.

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Playful Butterfly Tattoo

Placed behind the ear, butterfly tattoos gain a sense of playfulness, as they can only be seen from certain angles or when your hair is pulled back. The white detailing adds to the whimsical feeling as well.

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Line Art Butterfly Tattoo

Because butterfly wings tend to be intricate, line art makes for a great style for this design. If you plan on adding a lot of lines, keep the decoration and coloring otherwise simple.

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Dynamic Butterfly Tattoo

Butterflies come in a variety of colors and designs, so they can easily match any aesthetic. This tattoo uses subtle shading and white ink to create a dynamic sense of light and dark.

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Shoulder Butterfly Tattoo

The shoulder blade is a great location for a butterfly tattoo, as the amount of surface area means you can make it any shape and size that you’d like. The extra space also allows you to add more drawn-out details, like the shadow under the butterfly in this design.

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Arm Butterfly Tattoo

Placing a few butterflies along the arm gives the impression that they’re flying upward. Using a fine line style guarantees a sense of daintiness, and spacing out the butterflies adds to the weightlessness.

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Red Butterflies Tattoo

Butterflies don’t have to be super minimal or super maximal—feel free to play around with elements to find your perfect design. Here, a set of bold butterflies are customized with red ink to add visual interest.

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Small, Colorful Butterflies Tattoo

Just because you opt for small butterflies doesn’t mean you have to forgo color. Use a lighter color to make the insects feel weightless and delicate, rather than weighing them down.

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Geometric Butterfly Tattoo

Geometric designs work well for butterfly tattoos because of the ornate designs that normally appear on the insect. Sharp, straight lines don’t ruin a butterfly’s image—instead, they add a sense of contrast that feels organic.

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Natural Butterfly Tattoo

Rather than opting for a straight butterfly design, why not combine it with another natural element? Here, the butterfly is combined with florals, giving the tattoo “feminine” energy.

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Weightless Butterfly Tattoo

If you want a more realistic tattoo, butterflies are easily made to look as though they’re about to fly off your skin. With details like a large, properly placed shadow and the dynamic shading on the wings, this butterfly is ready to take flight.

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Thick Butterfly Tattoo

Butterfly tattoos don’t have to be small and minimal. Adding heavy shading or bright colors can add personality to the common design choice.

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Pastel Butterfly Tattoo

Try playing around with different tattoo styles with your butterfly design. This tattoo utilizes pastel coloring and a technique that looks like the wings themselves are overlapping.

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Blackwork Butterfly Tattoo

Thanks to the heavy black that naturally occurs on butterflies, blackwork tends to work well on tattoos of the insects. Rather than feeling heavy, the black feels normal, which makes visual room for more details to be added.

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Chest Butterfly Tattoo

Placing a butterfly in the center of your chest makes a statement. Going for a red color will add to that drama and make it feel as though it’s a part of your skin, rather than inked on.

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"Feminine" Butterfly Tattoo

A collection of butterflies along the collarbone feels very “feminine” because of the curves from the bone and the movement of the design. Because the collarbones add a bit of daintiness, you can also feel free to use a lot of blackwork if you wish.

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Add-On Butterfly Tattoo

Thanks to their ability to be any size without losing detail, butterflies are a great add-on tattoo. If you’ve already got ink and are faced with filling an empty space, why not choose a butterfly design?

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Word Butterfly Tattoo

Placing a word or phrase next to a butterfly tattoo will enhance the tattoo’s symbolism. While butterflies often represent change, endurance, or life itself, adding your own quote will give it a meaning that’s important to you.

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Simple Butterfly Tattoo

Because butterflies can be easily identified when broken down to their basic shapes, they look really good in a line art style. Making the lines feel more sketched-out gives the otherwise simple shapes a sense of personality.

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Shaded Butterfly Tattoo

If you want to add some intricate detailing without a lot of color or excess lines, opt for light shading to add depth to the wings. Keep any additional details thin and light to keep the design ornate, but not overwhelming.

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Floral Butterfly Tattoo

Butterflies are a perfect complement to a floral tattoo. Both occur in nature, have “feminine” energy, and can represent life. Pairing them bolsters these attributes.

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Overlapping Butterfly Tattoo

Butterfly finger tattoos don’t need to be simplified to keep them from overwhelming the finger. Feel free to add extra loops or overlapping lines to add visual interest while keeping it well-spaced.

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Series of Butterflies Tattoo

To play up the movement that comes naturally to a butterfly tattoo, go for a design featuring a series of butterflies. Place each butterfly’s wings into a different mid-flight position to make them seem like they’re flying.

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Butterfly Wing Tattoo

Because the body of a butterfly is dominated by its beautiful wings, a design without the actual body can still make an obvious impact. In this tattoo, the wings almost feel more weightless without the body, as it conjures up the image of delicate dried wings, rather than live ones.

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Contrasting Butterfly Tattoo

Rather than focusing on the inner wing of a butterfly design, try pulling attention to the blackwork complexities of the wing. The white details create a striking contrast while managing to feel natural.

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Aesthetic Butterfly Tattoo

Butterfly tattoos do not have to be super basic or super intricate. Try going for a more playful design that’s more about the overall aesthetic than a specific style.

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Balanced Butterfly Tattoo

Large butterfly tattoos don’t feel any heavier than tiny ones, as butterflies always have a fair amount of negative space in their design. This naturally pushes the thicker lines to the inner and outer parts of the tattoo, balancing it out.

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Womanhood Butterfly Tattoo

Because butterflies are often associated with women and “femininity,” they pop in design featuring other such images, like florals or the crescent moon. Sparkles, dot work, and other delicate details also add to the “feminine” feeling.

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Wings Butterfly Tattoo

As long as you keep the general shape of a butterfly’s wings, you can customize the design in any style you want. Here, the geometric design conjures the image of broken glass, but the obvious overall shape keeps it whimsical.

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Personal Meaning Butterfly Tattoo

Adding a word or a phrase to a butterfly tattoo can underline its meaning, whether personal or symbolic. This design uses the word “resilience” to emphasize the butterfly’s representation of hope and continuation.

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Realistic Butterfly Tattoo

If you’re going for a more realistic butterfly design, you don’t have to use color. Instead, go for a tattoo that uses varying line thicknesses, smooth and light shading, and small bits of blackwork to give the illusion of depth and light.

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Calf Butterfly Tattoo

Because the calf is such a resolute, straight part of the body, placing a butterfly tattoo there creates a contrast that makes it pop.

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Matching Butterfly Tattoo

Butterflies are a great idea for matching tattoos. Because butterflies have such a foundational design, you can be sure they’ll look the same. Plus, they can be customized to any shape, size, and style, so your matching tattoos are unique to the pair of you.

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Hand Butterfly Tattoo

Butterfly designs make for great hand tattoos because of the movement innate to both the insect and the body part. The wing shape of the butterfly also fits well with that of the hand, so the two elements harmonize with one another well.

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